I was at a point where I needed to go;
and so I bought the motorcycle, and I went...



Chain Lube

Chain Tension

Oil Change


Year Review
First Motorcycle Pages: Getting Started | Choosing a Bike | Selecting Gear | Cost of Ownership | Wind & Rain | Theresa Wallach |
Stories and Maps: Ride America 2005 | American Southwest 2005 |
Picture Sets: Arkansas - Texas | Austin | Chicago | New Mexico - Arizona | Santa Fe | Thorndale |
About Paul: Bio | Chicago Guide | Taxi Driving |

KLR650 - Lost in the fog: Highway 79, Texas.

KLR650 - Edge of the Painted Desert: Highway 160, Arizona, Navajo Territory.

KLR650 - Cathedral of Saint Francis: Santa Fe, New Mexico.

KLR650 - Bridge over the Arkansas River: Litle Rock, Arkansas.

KLR650 - Jerome: Highway 89A, Arizona.
Kawasaki KLR650: Drive Chain Tension
This document was prepared on October 1, 2007, after, roughly, 24 months and 16,000 miles of life with a 2006 Kawasaki KLR650. Not a substitute for the Factory's Owner's Manual, or the publications in the Clymer series, the information presented below is intended to serve as a companion to the aforementioned works, i.e., it's a means of sharing experience with other owners, potential owners, and novices undertaking the daunting task of familiarizing themselves with mechanical work.
Motorcycle Drive Chain Tension "How To" Illustrated
Motorcycle Chain Tension Tools
Tools Required:
(1) tape measure with locking blade;
(2) 24mm wrench OR adjustable capable of provide necessary leverage;
(3) 14mm wrench;
(4) 12mm wrench;
(5) adjustable OR 19mm wrench;
(6) needle-nose pliers OR similar device.

Does the motorcycle need its drive chain tension adjusted? According to Kawasaki, the KLR650 ought to have 2.0 - 2.6 inches [50 - 65 mm] of "play" in its drive chain - while at rest on its side stand. Additionally, I would suggest that while the motorcycle is loaded its drive chain ought not to be as tight as a bowstring - regardless of the amount of play that is present when the motorcycle is at rest on its side stand.
Motorcycle Chain Tension Tools
To check chain tension:
- the motorcycle is left at rest on the (1) side stand;
- a "locking-blade" (2) tape measure is set on the ground at the midpoint of the chain - between the front and rear sprockets.
[Position of the 12mm and 14mm adjustment (3) nuts indicated;
position of 24mm axle (4) nut, with safety pin intact, indicated.]
Motorcycle Chain Tension Check
Hooking the lip of the measuring tape around the chain, the chain is lifted to the highest point possible. And then the blade is locked.
Motorcycle Chain Tension Check
Pushing down on the chain, the maximum amount of "play" is indicated - in this position. The tension ought to be checked in several different points, in order to check for "tight spots."

In the photograph above, a "play" of just over 2.5 inches is indicated.

While 2.5 inches of play is supposed to be the upper-end of the chain's slack at rest, I would suggest checking the tension again - while the motorcycle is loaded with the rider's own weight and any cargo to be carried. If there isn't ANY slack while loaded, the chain is probably too tight. I certainly wouldn't make it any tighter. Checking the tension while the motorcycle is loaded might be a two-person job. It's worth the time. Do it.

In the example pictured here, I found 2.5 inches to be the tightest spot on the chain - and plenty of slack evident while the motorcycle was loaded, too.

Deciding that it was necessary to tighten the chain, I took note of the six "hash marks" stamped into the swingarm - and the dead center position indicated above the axle nut.
Motorcycle Rear Axle Pin
Then, I used my needle-nose pliers to remove the safety pin from the axle nut.
Motorcycle Rear Axle
Having removed the safety pin, I applied the adjustable [19mm] wrench to the axle head with my left hand, and I applied the 24mm wrench to the axle nut with my right hand.
Motorcycle Rear Axle 24mm
Holding my left hand steady, I exerted enough downward pressure to loosen the 24mm nut. It is not necessary to remove the parts.
Motorcycle Rear Axle 12 and 14mm
(1) holding steady the adjusting nut with the 14mm wrench,
(2) I use the 12mm wrench to back-off the [outer] locking nut;
(3) position of 24mm axle nut, with safety pin removed, indicated.

*Yes, the adjusting and lock nuts vibrate off the motorcycle when they're too loose; and, yes, they strip [easily] when overtorqued. The guys at multisurfacemotorcycling.com have suggested using "Loctite" to help hold things in place. I haven't had a problem - but I also haven't been able to avoid noticing the KLR's low level of "fit and finish" in such areas...
Motorcycle Chain Tension
Locking nut separated, the [inner] adjusting nut is turned 1/4 revolution right with the 14mm wrench. Then, still holding the adjusting nut in place with the 14mm wrench, the lock nut is secured against it with the 12mm wrench.

The 14mm wrench's change from the 12 o'clock position to the 3 o'clock position ought to be repeated on the opposite side of the swingarm, following the procedure above.

It is important that both sides of the axle are moved the same distance. And it is easier to tighten the chain evenly than it is to loosen the chain evenly. The 1/4 revolution of the adjusting nut described here was enough to reduce the chain tension from its maximum slack [2.5 inches] to its minimum slack [2.0 inches].
Motorcycle Swingarm Internal Tension Parts
Parts removed from motorcycle for photographic purposes: The movement of the adjusting and lock nuts (3) along the threaded rod draw the blocks (1) in or out of the swingarm frame, relative to the end caps (2) which [should] remain fixed.

Notice that the axle is the reference point.

After re-tightening [69 ft-lb or 93 N-m] the 24mm nut, check the position of the axle's centerpoint relative to the six "hash marks" on the swingarm frame. As pictured above, if one side of the axle is at the centerpoint the other side ought to be at the centerpoint too.

Check the chain's play at rest and while loaded, again.

If the chain slack - both at rest and while loaded - is acceptable, the axle alignment is "OK" as indicated by the "hash marks" on the swingarm, and all three sets of nuts are tight [12, 14, 19/24mm] then you can insert a new safety pin.

You're done!

It's time to clean and lube the chain.

These motorcycle pages reflect their author's personal experience. Information presented on this website ought not to substitute for any professional service. Go to Kawasaki, the MSF, the SMF and the AMA; they want to help you. Read the Hurt Report. Do your own research; formulate a hypothesis; test it. Read the material linked from this site. Take responsibility. Ride to be alive.
drive chain
Year 2006, Model KL650A6F

Stock Chain: Enuma EK520SR-02
Type: Endless
Est. Life: 6,200-25,000 miles
Inspection Schedule: 400 miles
Slack @ Rest: 2.0-2.6 inches
Front Sprocket: 15 Tooth
Rear Sprocket: 43 Tooth
Suspension Travel: 9.1 inches

It seems to me to be the case that as rear suspension travel increases, there must also be a proportional increase in drive chain slack, e.g., an MX bike demands a lot more "play" in its drive chain than does a rigid-framed custom. Too, as (1) the suspension becomes softer, (2) rider weight [load] increases, and (3) the surface ridden upon becomes more uneven, more slack is demanded.

I don't think that it's possible to give a good "average" number of inches of chain slack for all chain-driven motorcycles.

I use the Owner's Manual [MOM] "at rest" specs to start. But then I reach down [motorcycle not running!] and feel the chain while I'm mounted. If the chain is as tight as a bowstring, it's too tight - regardless of the reading I get while the bike's on its side stand.

Just like tire pressure: your bike, you, the conditions in which you ride seem to dictate what to do.

"How do I know if my sprockets are worn?" View this excellent photograph comparing worn and new sprockets from a BMW F650 GS.
drive chains on-line
Chains @ Dan's MC

O-Ring Chains @ Wikipedia

Chain Lube 101 @ Motorcyclist

Chains @ Motorcycle.com

Chain Lube @ ADVrider.com

Chain Care @ MSM
KLR650 on-line
One of the best things about the KLR650 is the fact that thousands of riders have been on-line sharing their experience with said model for a decade. Make use of that knowledge. Find as much relevant information as possible - prior to making your own decision.

klr650faq - The most encompassing single-page collection of general information that I have found, on-line. Compiled by Chris Krok.

multisurfacemotorcycling.com - Elden Carl and company. A great resource for Kawasaki KLR, Suzuki DR/Z and Honda XR/L riders. Maintenance, ride reports, etc.

f650.com - BMW F650GS focus, with useful commentary on tires, riding tips, etc; applicable to most 650cc single-cylinder motorcycles.

Diesel KLR650 - Diesel engine conversion from F1 Engineering.

U.S. Marine Corps KLR650 - YouTube video, including multi-fuel capable segment.

Owner's Pages

1999-2006 KLR650 - Five-time KLR650 owner Verle Nelson. A good read.

2001 KLR650: mods, trips, etc. - Good pictures of Ortlieb dry bags mounted on a KLR650. Mods, etc.

1999 KLR650 - Mods, tires, etc.

An unhappy owner :(


KLR650.NET - The first, and still the largest, KLR-specific forum on-line.

klrforum.com - ?

klrworld.com - ADV's Hondo and company; member's rides featured.

Yahoo - Dual Sport News' Yahoo! Groups KLR650 list. Since 2000. Register to read.

Adventure Touring

Bob's KLR650 Arctic Adventure: 2005 - Gear reviews and mods, on the road to the Arctic Circle via Alaska (again).

Motorcycle touring - An old hand's advice on packing, gear, lodging, etc. Good stuff.

ironbutt.com - The Archive of Wisdom at Iron Butt.

horizonsunlimited.com - An awesome, global, adventure touring website.

advrider.com - A great forum, and archive, dealing with adventure touring, and motorcycling, generally.

Greg Frazier - Crow Indian Tribe, PhD Economics, author, motorcyclist. He's been doing it a long time.

Parts Options

dual-star.com - Racks, bags, etc. Fuel tanks. Washington State.

happy-trail.com - Racks, aluminum panniers, guards etc. Made in the U.S.A., at the Happy Trails shop in Idaho.

ronayers.com - Parts, tires, helmets, etc.

Arrowhead Motorsorts - Utah, Moab, "Fred" has a good reputation.

Eagle Mfg. and Engineering - Most "doohickey" upgrades appear to be "Eagle" Mike's work. And people are pleased.

Schnitz Motorsports, Inc - In addition to the usual parts, also the 685cc upgrade. Folks have mentioned being happy with their work.

Tires - A compendium of rider's opinions on various tire models culled from the Yahoo! list, and the klr650faq. Check f650.com for additional.


AMA: 2005 model review - On the road, in Alaska.

Motorsports-Network: 2004 model review - Up the California Coast.

Minnesota Motorcycle Monthly: 2002 model review - Through the Upper Midwest.

Motorcycle Daily: 2002 review

Epinions.com: 2000 model review

Specs: 87-96 models


When I began looking for a motorcycle on which to take a long ride, I found Mariola Cichon's "Ride of the Heart" website. It's gone, living now only in memory and the Internet Archive . But it was because of that Polish lady from Chicago that I wound up on a KLR650. Thanks!
Had it not been for the women in my life, on-line, and behind the books, I would not have done this - this way. The best MSF course that I took contained the most female students - including two mother & daughter pairs. (It was taught by the oldest instructors too.) There are height, weight and strength issues in motorcycling; but there are no gender issues between you and the machine.

Women on bikes, on-line:

And Melissa Holbrook Pierson wrote a really good book:
The Perfect Vehicle.
Paul E. Germanos
478 S. York
Elmhurst, IL, 60126





Chicago Guide
It seems impossible to discuss what has, and has not, worked - without making reference to particular products. "What should I get?" "Where should I get it?" "How much should I expect to pay?" "Who has good service?" People want to know. Prior to making a major purchase, most savvy consumers attempt to gather as much information as possible. For most of us, a motorcycle is a major purchase. Look around. Be informed.

If I write about something, it is only because I have used it. If I link to something, it is only because I have found it to be helpful. If I include ads, it is to help to pay for the cost of the website. And Google's ads seem to supply content that is relevant to this page's purpose. Again: I don't know how to provide information about the KLR650, accessories and motorcycling generally, without advancing, or inhibiting, someone's commercial agenda.

Be smart: Look; learn; decide; and then get away from the computer - and go ride. Motorcycling isn't in here; it's out there.
Drive Chain
Drive Chains On-Line
KLR650 Resources On-Line
Women in Motorcycling
Contact Information

KLR650 - Gas stop: Thorndale, Texas.

KLR650 - In the desert: Highway 285, New Mexico.

KLR650 - The Pacific Ocean.

KLR650 - Mission Beach: San Diego, California.
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e-mail: paulgermanos(at)msn.com    

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